Do you ever experience moments where, after the day is done, you reflect on certain conversations that came up and you're like, "How did I find myself so passionately involved in that?" Since I work in the field of relationships, while all of this is kind of an occupational hazard for me, I must admit that a recent two-plus hour discussion about the Dwayne-Whitley-Byron (you know, from A Different World) triangle was IN-TER-EST-ING. The bottom line is a guy was talking about how much Whitley would've been better off with Byron; that even Dwayne said so. Meanwhile, I was like, while their lifestyles may have complemented one another better (at least at the time of the engagement and wedding), no one should ever have to convince themselves to be with someone else and, while Whitley was dating Byron, she did that, more times than not — including the night before and day of her (attempted) nuptials to him.
If you've never seen any of what I'm talking about before, a YouTube clip of Dwayne interrupting the ceremony is here. Yet honestly, even if you are totally unaware of what I'm talking about or you're not a fan of the show (what in the world?!), all of what I'm saying is really just a backdrop of the topic that we're gonna tackle today. Because between those three and a lot of my clients, I can assure you that far too many people make it a point and practice to convince their own selves to romantically remain with someone. And if you bear with me, I'm about to share how and why that's so not a good thing. Not. At. All.
SIGN #1: You’re “Aight” Yet Not Satisfied
Listen, I will be the first to say that one of the biggest problems that a lot of people have is they worship the god of "being happy" instead of focusing on saying and doing what will make and keep them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. I'm so resolved about this, in fact, that I recently wrote an article about it for this platform entitled, "I've Got 6 Solid Reasons To Put Being 'Healthy' Over Being 'Happy.'" Along these same lines, I also believe that many people end up sabotaging what could be really solid relationships because they spend way too much time having a "fairy tale mentality" instead of approaching things from a realistic point of view. And when it comes to this particular point, what I mean by that is it is extremely unrealistic to believe that you are going to get everything that you want from another person (or that you'll be able to provide that for them). At the same time, I'm all about folks making sure that they feel satisfied with where they are and who they are with.
Feeling satisfied isn't about every whim being met. Feeling satisfied is about feeling content and content is about being good with the way things are, having peace of mind, and being willing to fully accept the circumstances that you are in — not one of these things…all of them. Something that I tell many of my clients is if you're constantly trying to change someone, if you can't relax and be present in your relationship, and/or if you are always complaining about your situation, yet you then turn around and say your relationship is on solid ground, you are in a serious state of self-denial.
Far too many of us are out here treading in water instead of swimming, even when it comes to relationships. It really can't be said enough that satisfaction should be a state of mind that all of us should be in when it comes to who we are with. Are you?
SIGN #2: You Love…You’re Not IN LOVE
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, "Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Difference." One of the points I hit on is the fact that, by definition, you can't really be "in love with" someone alone. That's because the word "in" literally means "in or into some place, position, state, relation, etc." while "with" means "accompanied by; accompanying". So yeah, for two people to be in an "in love" situation, both parties have to be on the same page.
That doesn't mean you can't love someone on your own, though. And sometimes, that love can cause us to think that we're in love; especially if the person we're with feels stronger about us than we do. Case in point. A wife that I know has been struggling in her marriage, shoot, since day one. When I asked her why she isn't more aggressive about requiring that her husband get help (there's no abuse; he's just someone in need of some therapy to get some real emotional intelligence going), she said, "I don't know. I do know that I'm in love with him, though." I challenged that by asking, "If the two of you didn't have kids together, would you stay?" and when she said, "Probably not," I said, "Most of the people I know who are in love are, come hell or high water. So, are you in love? Are you really?" She was silent after that.
I should've said in the intro of this that this article is mostly for singles (meaning if your current tax records reflect that as being your relational status) because the advice that I have for married folks on a subject like this is very different because I see that kind of relationship very differently (check out "What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?"). What I will say, for now, is "love" is not the same as "in love" and if you have to tell yourself otherwise, you are someone who should read this article all the way through.
You know, a wife once told me that the night before her wedding, to her second husband (who is now an ex-husband), she knew she wasn't in love with him. When she told him that, he said, "I've got enough love for the both of us." Only people who are hooked on romance novels and Hallmark movies think that's romantic. The rest of us know that is a red flag like a mug. No one can make up for the love someone else doesn't have. So, if you've been trying to "fake the funk" in this lane…one way or another, a crash is up ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you. You're either loving or in love. Which is it?
SIGN #3: You Defend the Relationship More than Praise It
Some of y'all are in a ridiculous pattern and you know it. On one hand, you want your friends to totally have your back as you constantly complain about your partner and the issues within your relationship. Then, when you're over it (or you've at least convinced yourself to be that way), you want them to act like they didn't hear all of what you just said. And while you're now trying to convince them, for the umpteenth time, that things really are better than what you said that they were, just a few days ago, your homies are like, "Yeah. OK, girl."
A part of what comes with being a good friend is supporting your tribe. No doubt. A part of what comes with being a mature human being is truly getting that relationships have ups and downs, no doubt about it. Still, if your peeps are really paying attention, they are going to take note of how much you are complaining and then defending your relationship as opposed to singing the praises of your guy and how things are going. And listen, if the split tends to consistently be 60/40 in the favor of complaining and defending, you already know that I'm gonna say that that ain't good. In fact, the defending that you're doing is alerting you to the fact that you're not as fulfilled as should be. Please don't ignore that.
SIGN #4: You’re Turning into a “Time Fighter”
A movie that I've watched, Lawd, who knows how many times isPrime (Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg). Anyway, when the main guy character's best friend finds out that he's dating a significantly older woman, he calls her a "time fighter." Now, before some of y'all get triggered to high hell, his reference has some validity to it. Sometimes, when an older woman is dating a younger man, the challenge can be that they are in two very different seasons of life. Because of that, she can end up trying to push him, manipulate him, or CONVINCE HIM to move into marriage or children before he is ready. Why? Because she doesn't have the same kind of time that he does to play around.
Another example of "time-fighting" is you have a one-, two- or five-year plan that causes you to treat your partner like an "add water and stir" type of thing. What I mean by that is, it's not so much that you think "he's" the best match for you…you simply don't want to start over and so you decide to make — and by "make", I mean force — it to work, so that you can avoid the fear of having to start all over again.
If there's one thing that you should definitely avoid, it's trying to rush time. Whether it's a marriage timeline, your biological clock (check out "Tick Tock: How To Get Over The Fear Of Your Biological Clock"), an upcoming opportunity that could require you to move out of state, or anything else that's got you feeling like you're in a race against the clock, time flying by is not a good enough reason to stay with someone or pressure them because there are many married people who will vouch for the fact that rushing to the altar can sometimes result in time standing completely still, miserably so, after saying "I do" (check out "7 Men & 7 Women Tell Me Why They Think Their Marriage Ended").
SIGN #5: You Continually Overlook That “Gut Feeling”
Gut instincts. Yes, there is something to be said for their accuracy. There is also something to be said for people who mistake "their gut" for actual projecting based on past experiences or unresolved issues (check out "When You Should Trust Your Gut & When You Shouldn't" and "So, Experts Have Something To Say About Your Intuition's Accuracy"). With that being said, I once had a boyfriend who I definitely convinced myself to be with. I wasn't attracted to him. He didn't have any money. We were good as friends yet didn't really gel so well beyond that. Yet I stayed for years because I ignored my gut saying, "He's a good guy just not my good guy" and tried to make it work because of the first part of that sentence. Then, as the whispers in my mind kept getting ignored, one day someone in my family said, "There are two things I know about [insert name here]. One, he's a really nice guy. The other is he's not for you."
I don't know what it is that causes us to want to tell our conscience or gut that it doesn't know what it's talking about because if everything was copacetic, neither would have much to say. You know, I once heard a mental health expert define our gut instinct as "having an immediate understanding of something". If you know that you've been arguing with your understanding of what you need vs. what you're settling for or what is doable vs. what is best, WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? Your gut is trying to get you to realize what would be a better option. Respect it enough to silence your "pushback" and actually listen.
SIGN #6: Deep Down, You Know You’re Making Too Many Concessions
Something else that I'm a firm believer of is if a person is selfish, stubborn, unforgiving, controlling, or inflexible, they are far better off not being in a serious dynamic because, if there's one thing that a relationship requires, it's a semi-constant compromise — and sometimes, that compromise requires making some concessions. At the end of the day, all a concession means is you're willing to yield and all yielding is about is giving in…being flexible. While on the surface, this is all well and good, what you have to stay on top of is a quote by the late philanthropist Howard Hughes — "Once you consent to some concession, you can never cancel it and put things back the way they are."
As it applies to this particular topic, if you keep yielding either 1) without your partner doing the same on some level or 2) beyond your better judgment, you could find yourself bending to the point of literally breaking down. Because, after all, making concessions should be about doing what is needed in order to benefit the relationship overall — not damn near killing yourself, just so your partner can be happy.
I don't know any better way to close this out than with this point. If you are making so many concessions that you are losing yourself, you aren't even really at peace in your relationship or you can't remember your own wants anymore, that's another pretty telltale sign that you are convincing yourself to remain with him — and when you are losing yourself or your needs in order to keep a man, how is that possibly worth it? Like…ever? Helpful hint: IT AIN'T.
Yeah. All of that energy that you're putting yourself into convincing yourself to stay with ole' boy? How about redirecting it towards convincing yourself that you shouldn't have to do all of that. Relationships require an effort but it shouldn't be to constantly talk yourself to stay with someone. So, why are you doing it? Straight up, sis.
For more love and relationships, features, dating tips and tricks, and marriage advice check out xoNecole's Sex & Love section here.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Y’all, I ain’t got no lies to tell you. Personally, I am counting down the days until the obsession with resembling Mr. Snuffleupagus (the real ones know) goes away. Not that I don’t think there is something uber-feminine and sometimes even super glamorous about a long, lusty pair of eyelashes — but as one of my favorite quotes goes, “The excess of a virtue can be a vice,” and lashes are no exception. Lawd.
How To Grow Eyelashes Naturally
Besides, I wonder how many people who go overly long and thick on the extensions tip get that over time, that can do significant damage to their natural eyelashes — sometimes irreparably so. That’s why I think it’s important that, if you’re going to add lashes, you take the “less is more” approach. Oh, and if it’s because you wish that your own lashes were longer or fuller, you learn how to make that happen by taking a more holistic approach (while also being patient; it takes between 4-11 months for lashes to reach their fullest potential).
Starting with the following 10 tips on how to grow eyelashes naturally, you will be batting your natural lashes in no time, chile.
1. Take a Biotin and Collagen Supplement
It probably comes as no surprise to you that a supplement that’s associated with hair growth and thickness is the water-soluble form of vitamin B known as biotin. Skin rashes, brittle nails, and hair loss are all signs of having a biotin deficiency. If your lashes seem to be sparse or thinner than you would like, taking a biotin supplement certainly couldn’t hurt.
Speaking of supplements, you might want to add some collagen to your health regimen, too. Since collagen contains amino acids that help to build hair and can help to strengthen weak hair follicles — those are already solid enough reasons to take them for your lashes.
For the record, foods that are high in biotin include mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, and broccoli. As far as collagen goes, foods that are high in it include bone broth, chicken, liver, berries, and aloe vera (bookmark that aloe vera point).
2. Keep Your Lashes Clean
So, here’s the thing about this particular point: Although you probably wash your face at least once a day (hopefully twice — once in the morning and again at night), if you’re not being intentional about cleaning your lashes, there could be some leftover mascara and other gunk on them that could end up weighing them down and/or drying them out. So, definitely wash them all on their own. Your best bet would be to use a super mild cleanser like baby shampoo so that your eyes don’t end up getting irritated in the process.
3. Condition Them with Aloe Vera
Since aloe vera is high in vitamins A, B12, C, E, and folic acid, that’s already a good reason to want to use it on your hair — and your lashes qualify. Plus, pure aloe vera gel is made up of almost 100 percent water, which makes it the ultimate conditioner for your lashes if you’re looking for something all-natural that will both soften and strengthen your lashes at the same time. To get the best results, a lot of women like to apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to their lashes before turning in at night and then wash the solution off in the morning.
4. Brush Your Lashes (No, Seriously)
Have you ever thought about what brushing your hair does for it? It removes tangles. It gets out debris. It evenly distributes natural oils. It reduces stress. It increases blood circulation. And for all of these reasons, it’s important that you brush your eyelashes on a daily basis. All you need to do is designate a clean wand for nothing but brushing your lashes. Then, whether it’s right when you wake up in the morning or right after washing your face, use the wand to GENTLY brush your lashes. First, do the top of them and then use the wand to lift them up. After a few weeks, you should notice your lashes appearing fuller. (You can check out a brief tutorial video here.)
5. Pay Attention to Shedding
Just like hair sheds on your head (50-100 hairs a day is considered normal), losing 1-5 eyelashes is the average amount to not worry too much about. However, if it happens to be more than that, lash extensions, leaving makeup longer than you should, or even relying on eyelash curlers too much can play a direct role in lash shedding. So, if you notice that your eyelashes are appearing thinner or parse, do a process of elimination first. If nothing changes, make an appointment with your doctor in order to rule out the possibility of other underlying health issues.
6. Apply a Castor Oil and Vitamin E Oil Blend at Your Lash Lines
I’m gonna be real: even though I know that medical experts have a resume to back up their claims, sometimes I will read articles on certain topics and still think they’re being haters. For instance, after reading that a dermatologist (via a Byrdie article) said that applying castor oil to your lash lines can hydrate your lashes, yet it won’t help them to grow, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes. I mean, if castor oil contains protein, antioxidants, nutrients, and fatty acids along with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and hair can benefit from all of these things, how could your lashes not, too?
And while you’re at it, break open one or two vitamin E capsules and add it to the castor oil. Vitamin E helps to reduce hair loss, increases shine, and helps to lock in hydration — all good stuff to know if you happen to use mascaras that contain some type of alcohol in the ingredients (and many of them do).
7. Put Tea Bags on Your Eyes
The herbs and tannins that are in herbal tea can do wonders for your eyes when it comes to doing everything from lightening the appearance of dark circles and reducing puffiness to speeding up the healing process of styes and even pink eye. So, what about when it comes to your eyelashes? Well, I’ve actually read a few places (like here and here) that green tea especially can do wonders for lash growth, in part due the caffeine that’s in it. Listen, some warm bags on tired eyes are the ultimate kind of low-maintenance pampering hack. Try it a couple of times a week. You’ll feel more relaxed, and your lashes could end up growing longer, too.
8. Have “Off Days”
No matter what you put on your lashes, it’s going to add a bit of “weight” to them — and anything that has weight will start to get worn out over time. That’s why it’s also a good idea to give your lashes “off days” from any kind of mascara, serum, or keratin-infused products. Sometimes, simply brushing your lashes and adding a bit of coconut oil (which adds protein) or lemon peel oil (which could accelerate lash growth) is all you need in order to pamper your lashes without the added stress and pressure of makeup. 1-2 days a week of this should be all that you need.
9. Use a Bit of Shea Butter at Night
Something that I’ve been getting into the habit of doing more and more at night is applying a thin coat of shea butter on my lips as well as on my eyelids. The fatty acids alone that are in the butter do wonders for my skin (especially when I use it consistently). Since shea butter has properties in it like linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids, as well as anti-inflammatory properties, your lashes can only benefit from the moisture that shea butter offers as well as its ability to increase collagen production (which, again, is great for hair growth and elasticity) and promote stronger hair.
10. Keep Your Mascara Current
It’s kind of crazy that it was five years ago when I wrote, “When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?” for the platform. Anyway, as far as mascara goes, if you’ve got a tube that has been in one of your bathroom drawers for over six months, it really is time to toss it. Why? Because you really aren’t supposed to use mascara for longer than three months before getting a new tube. That’s how you keep bacteria and germs down to a minimum and the solution from getting so thick that it ends up being heavier on your eyelashes than it should be.
Oh, and if you’re looking for the kind of mascara that will help your eyelashes to grow longer, make sure that keratin is listed in the ingredients, along with peptides, vitamin B, and water (water should actually lead the pack). That way, you can be confident that while your lashes are appearing thick and full, they are receiving just what they need to gain some length over time too. Now wink one time if you feel me. LOL. #wink
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